The World's Coolest Office
Fifth Runner Up: LivingSocial in Washington, D.C. LivingSocial's Design Captures an Energetic Vision and Nods to HistoryFourth Runner Up: Atelier Tenjinyama in JapanFourth Runner Up: Atelier Tenjinyama is At One With the ElementsThird Runner Up: Vakko Fashion Center in IstanbulThird Runner Up: Vakko's Extreme Renovation Makes Steel Boxes GlamorousSecond Runner Up: The Hub in MadridSecond Runner Up: The Hub Uses Simple Décor for Open MindsFirst Runner Up: Comvert's Bastard Store in MilanFirst Runner Up: Comvert's "Build it and They Will Come" Theory WorkedAnd the Winner Is: Obscura Digital by IwamotoScottThe World's Coolest Office: Obscura Digital by IwamotoScott
When LivingSocial, a local daily deals company based in Washington, D.C., needed to accommodate its rapid staffing growth, it worked with designers at OTJ Architects to create a concept that expressed the company's energetic vision, mirrored its urban setting, and encouraged team collaboration. (Continued)
Green "atrium" areas surrounded by planters serve as informal meeting hubs, and open-style seating promotes team unity. Historical aspects of the building are revealed in the atrium, antique doors to the conference room, and exposed columns throughout. The recent history of this young company is honored by its custom bathtub conference table (a nod to its first ramshackle office).
What is the boundary between indoors and out? Designed with the philosophy that the comfort of outdoor openness is psychologically freeing, the Atelier Tenjinyama in Japan is a study in modern primitivism. Four reinforced concrete walls are mounted on a dirt floor, and covered with a transparent ceiling of shatterproof glass. Tall windows slice through the concrete, opening the bunker up to its urban surroundings. (Continued)
"This atelier is in the environment where an evening of the summer has many thunderstorms, winter has fine weather and strong dry wind blow in," Ikimono Architects writes. It's a dramatic effect when snow and rain gather above head on glass panels. But the elements might take a toll—aside from opening an office-dweller's mind—when nature calls. An umbrella is always present, open, in the office, for when ducking out to the restroom, which is through an open-air corridor.
The Vakko Fashion Center in Istanbul, Turkey, was transformed from an abandoned hotel into a fashion-and-media headquarters in roughly six weeks. By carving out all but an exterior ring of the building. However, due to Turkey's frequent earthquakes, the ring was required to stay free-standing. To fill the center, REX's engineers devised a plan for stacking steel boxes at curious angles inside the old building's skeleton, creating a magnificent "showcase," comprised of an auditorum, showrooms, meeting rooms, and executive offices. (Continued)
Maintaining a sleek and refined image was key to Vakko's public profile, so REX cloaked the interior showcase in mirror-glass, creating a mirage-like effect. To veil the clumsy concrete exoskeleton left by the abandoned hotel, thin panes of glass imprinted with a structural "X" were wrapped around the exterior. Angles are at play throughout, with beams criss-crossing throughout the interior cubes, giving the illusion of rooms tilting in the air.
Once a garden, then a railway station, then a garage, this concrete structure today houses the Madrid outlet of The Hub, an office-share network for social entrepreneurs. When ch+qs arquitectos got a hold of the place, it was an empty bubble of space untouched since the 1940s in the city center. And the goal remained to leave it as untouched as possible. (Continued)
The goal for The Hub was to create myriad flexible workstations that could serve as timeshares for entrepreneurs looking to "change the world." It didn't require an expensive furniture shipment. Instead, designers brought in loads of fruit boxes, which today serve as stools, desks, ladders, shelves, and an entire ticket office—offering extreme flexibility. Walls were left raw, save for felt lining conference rooms. In-floor heating and cooling lies beneath the raw wood.
This retail and office space was carved into a 1940s theater in Milan for the brand Comvert, which designs and distributes clothing for skateboarders and snowboarders under the brand Bastard. Before beginning the renovation of the theater, Milan-based studiometrico observed the habits, tastes, and styles of Comvert employees in order to create a workspace that would mesh seamlessly with their offbeat corporate culture. (Continued)
The theater's existing features—including marble floors, a half-moon-shaped foyer, and two curved staircases—provided much of the inspiration for what was built in to augment them. A showroom is decked with mobile furniture, so that it can be converted into a meeting space, screening room, or runway. Administrative department offices are perched on a larch platform, and a wall of a courtyard is covered in graffiti by artist and skateboarder Lorenzo Fonda. Oh, yeah, and there's a massive skating "bowl" elevated above the showroom. It's the company's "dream come true" element, and certainly attracts the right crowd to the brand.
...Obscura Digital headquarters in San Francisco, designed by IwamotoScott Architecture. This entry showcased true inventiveness by a firm, in dealing with a straightforward space, tight budget, and strict redesign schedule. Nonetheless, IwamotoScott transformed a dull, grey, 36,000 square-foot 1940s warehouse into a tri-level matrix of workspaces that abut a double-height workshop and showroom, which offer views of a massive geodesic dome projection theater and a transluscent upper-level conference room. (Continued)
The conference room's interior is lined in black bamboo; metal studs form twisting walls and curious geometries; porous railings and translucent glass panels define and gently separate workspaces. Wooden and steel beams line the ceilings and stairs, lending a sleek-but-earthy vibe to the cavernous space. Lighting fixtures accent the geometric-minded design as well. Situated in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, the rooftop was built out into a terrace overlooking central San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay. —Christine Lagorio
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